More than 30 lions have been rescued from 10 animal circuses in Peru and Colombia by Animal Defenders International (ADI). They were transported to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa and released.
The lions were freed after the use of wild animals was banned in Peru in 2011 and Colombia in 2013. The circuses forced the lions to do tricks for human entertainment under the threat of physical punishment.
The lions now live in Emoya’s 5,000-hectare sanctuary, which is already home to eight rescued lions and tigers, has a no-breeding policy, and is not open to the public. Here, the lions have drinking pools, platforms, and toys and also receive veterinary care.
Tim Philips, the vice president of ADI, stated that these lions had never walked on grass or soil or rubbed themselves on tree trunks before arriving at the sanctuary.
— ADI (@AnimalDefenders) May 1, 2016
This sanctuary will be the lions’ “forever” home—they cannot be released into the wild, as they have been bred in captivity and do not know how to hunt. Also, the circus owners who previously trained the lions for acts mutilated many of them. Several have broken teeth because trainers bashed them, and they all had their claws removed.
— ADI (@AnimalDefenders) May 2, 2016
The lions will be carefully monitored in their new enclosures, which will be steadily expanded over the coming months as they become familiar with their new environment and the other lions.
As more people become aware of the cruelty involved in forcing animals to perform, circuses that use animals are finding fewer places to set up their big tops. In addition to Colombia and Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico, Singapore, and many other countries around the world have banned or are in the process of banning wild-animal acts. In 2011, China implemented a ban on animal performances in its 300 state-owned zoos. Enforcement of the regulation is lax, but bans are a critical step in the right direction.